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by James Thomas, Friday, 09 February 2018 | Categories: Womens Health

January 22nd - 28th is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week; a Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust initiative which this year is focusing on the different ways in which women can take small steps towards reducing their risk. By understanding more about the symptoms of cervical cancer, and its risk factors, Jo’s Trust is hoping to lower cervical cancer rates in the UK through education, knowledge, and simple screening.

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer occurs when cancerous cells develop in the cervix, and it’s more common than many people think. In fact, cervical cancer is the 13th most common cancer in women (1), and around 3000 new cases are diagnosed each and every year in the UK (2). Sadly, despite high survival rates – women diagnosed with Stage 1 cervical cancer have an 80-99% 5-year survival rate – 3 women lose their lives to the disease every day (3). Many women don’t realise that they have cervical cancer until a later stage.

Improving Awareness

The Jo’s Trust Cervical Cancer Prevention Week is designed to help women become more aware of the signs and symptoms of the disease. The ultimate aim is to improve awareness of the different ways that women can minimise their risk of developing cancer, and take simple measures to ensure that if they do have the disease, the cancer is diagnosed during the early stages for the highest chance of survival.

Here in the UK, many women are not taking advantage of the available screening methods for cervical cancer. There are a number of screening methods available, but one of the most well known techniques is cervical screening, or the ‘smear’ test. Each year, 5 million women in the UK aged between 25-64 are invited for cervical screening (4), although an estimated 1,250,000 won’t make an appointment (5). These statistics are worrying, as it’s believed that regular smears could prevent 75% of cervical cancer cases.

It’s Time to be Proactive

Cervical Cancer Prevention Week is the perfect time for women to be brave, be proactive, and take control. A good starting point is to learn more about the causes of cervical cancer, and how to reduce risk factors. There are many different aspects that can contribute towards the development of cervical cancer, such as chlamydia, smoking, family history, and the use of oral contraceptives, although 99.7% of cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus infection, or HPV (6), which can affect cells.

HPV isn’t always linked to cervical cancer. In fact, HPV is very common and, in many cases, the body is able to successfully fight off the virus without causing any long lasting damage. However, there are some specific forms of HPV – HPV 16 and HPV 18 – which are present in around 70% of cervical cancer cases (7), suggesting that these are typically ‘high risk’ forms. Fortunately, women can determine if they are considered high risk for these forms of HPV by taking a quick and simple HPV screening test at home.

Sharing Knowledge

The Jo’s Trust campaign is also encouraging women to share their knowledge, and ensure that younger girls are growing up armed with the information they need to help protect themselves from disease. The HPV vaccine is now available on the NHS for free for girls aged between 12 and 18, and protects against 4 different types of HPV: HPV 16 and HPV 18, which are most commonly associated with the development of cervical cancer, along with HPV 6 and HPV 11, which can contribute to genital warts.

Reduce Your Risk

Through small lifestyle changes, such as using condoms and stopping smoking, and through regular screening including quick at-home HPV tests, and NHS cervical screening every 3 years (for women aged 25 - 49) or every 5 years (for women aged 50 - 64), women all across the UK can give themselves the best chance to protect themselves from cancer, or catch the disease early to improve their survival rate.





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